SWEDEN

Sweden Prepares To Deport Up To 80,000 Asylum Seekers

The Scandinavian country could expel as many as half of the migrants who applied for asylum in Sweden in 2015

SWEDEN
Children from Syria sleep outside near Stockholm. — REUTERS
Jan 28, 2016 at 9:27 AM ET

Sweden is preparing to expel as many as 80,000 migrants—nearly half of the 163,000 migrants who applied for asylum in Sweden last year. “We are talking about 60,000 people but the number could climb to 80,000,” Sweden’s Interior Minister Anders Ygeman told local news media.

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The preparations for what could be sweeping deportations come as Europe continues to grapple with a migrant crisis that severely escalated in mid-2015, when a rising number of people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations worldwide flooded E.U. borders.

The plans apply to migrants whose applications for asylum are rejected, and seem to mark the latest in a set of efforts by Sweden to curb the flow of asylum seekers into the country. In early January, and for the first time since the 1950s, Sweden imposed tougher ID checks on people entering from Denmark, its southern neighbor.

Sweden has been among the main destinations for those who have made a treacherous journey to the E.U. via the Mediterranean Sea. The country received the most asylum applications per capita in 2015 compared to any other European nation.

Interior Minister Ygeman said in an interview with Dagens Industri, a Swedish newspaper, on Thursday that migrants whose asylum applications were rejected would be transported by plane out the country in a process that could take several years, according to reports. He has also said that some of those who should be deported could go into hiding. “We have a big challenge ahead of us,” Ygeman said, according to Reuters. “We will need to use more resources for this and we must have better cooperation between authorities.”

News of the planned deportations led to a swell of confusion among asylum seekers, who posted numerous messages questioning the possibility of such an act and wondering who exactly faces risk of deportation. Some even questioned the authenticity of the reports. “No way, it won’t happen. It is impossible to execute such a decision,” a Facebook user, Omar Badran, wrote in a Facebook group popular among Syrian refugees in Sweden.

Dozens speculated that the decision will only affect migrants from Afghanistan and North Africa, suggesting—and hoping—that Syrians won’t be deported. “Syrians are safe,” a post by Zyad Alhammoud, from Raqqa, wrote. Others, though, expressed more pessimistic sentiment and suggested Syrians also face expulsion.